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Department of the Environment and Heritage Annual Report 2003-04

Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2004
ISSN 1441 9335

Management and accountability (continued)

International policy advice

Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement

The Department was an active participant in the negotiation of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States. The Department was represented at all rounds of negotiations and was actively involved between rounds in providing policy advice on aspects of various chapters in the Free Trade Agreement. The final agreement meets an initial objective set out by the Australian Government in 2002, which was to seek to ensure that trade and environment policies are mutually supportive by maintaining Australia's ability to protect and conserve its environment and to meet its international obligations.

World Trade Organisation Committee on Trade and Environment

The Department continues to take an active role in meetings of the World Trade Organisation Committee on Trade and Environment. The Committee is negotiating the trade and environment outcomes of the Ministerial Meeting in Doha, Qatar; particularly the reduction or elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers on environmental goods and services and the relationship between multilateral environment agreements and the World Trade Organisation rules. Little was achieved this year on these issues as negotiations on the Doha round ceased across the board for some time following the breakdown in talks at the meeting in Cancun, Mexico, in September 2003.

Commission on Sustainable Development

The major themes under discussion at the 12th session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD12), held between 14 and 30 April 2004, were water, sanitation and human settlements. CSD12 was the first session under the new two-year cycle format agreed at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, focusing on reviewing progress to date. CSD13 in 2005 will examine the policy issues and priorities identified during CSD12.

The Minister led the Australian delegation, highlighting Australia's leadership in the management of freshwater resources in his high-profile role as an introductory speaker on the water theme. The Minister identified the importance of good governance, integrated approaches to natural resource management, and innovative financing mechanisms, including private capitalisation. Australia's domestic work on freshwater issues, including provision of environmental flows in key river systems, was highlighted by a number of countries at the meeting as being world-leading. A number of issues were identified for further action on all three main themes, and will be the subject of negotiation at CSD13 in 2005.

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and United Nations Environment Programme

The Department represented Australia's interests in the meetings of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's Environment Policy Committee and the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council.

The Environment Policy Committee met at ministerial level in April 2004 to review progress on implementation of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's Environmental Strategy for the First Decade of the 21st Century. The Minister was unable to attend and was represented by a senior departmental officer. Australia along with Sweden had been requested to develop a draft ministerial statement on sustainable development, which was accepted by ministers with much recognition of the effort put in by Australia.

The Department represented Australia's interests at the March 2004 meeting of the United Nations Environment Programme's Global Ministerial Environment Forum held in the Republic of Korea. Australia was able to ensure there was emphasis on environmental flows of water in United Nations Environment Programme's submission to the Commission on Sustainable Development meeting on water.

Bilateral activities

Planning and coordination

During the year, the portfolio revamped its International Steering Committee, making it into a high-level strategic planning and coordination body across the portfolio on international issues. The steering committee developed an international workplan, which guided the year's activities. The plan will be reviewed annually. A negotiators' forum was also run for staff engaging in international negotiations, to discuss issues of common interest.

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